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Wheelchair Etiquette

A person in a wheelchair is just a a wheelchair. Most of us realize this, but we still feel a little awkward, because we are afraid we will give offense by doing or saying the wrong thing. So sometimes we just ignore the person, because it seems easier than taking that risk. No reason to do this! Below are a few simple guidelines that will help you normalize your interactions with people in chairs:

1.  Always ask the person using the wheelchair if he or she would like assistance BEFORE you help. It may not be needed or wanted.

2. Don't hang or lean on a person's wheelchair because it is part of that person's personal body space.

3. Speak directly to the person in the wheelchair, not to someone nearby as if the person in the wheelchair did not exist.

4. If conversation lasts more than a few minutes, consider sitting down or kneeling to get yourself on the same level.

5. Don't demean or patronize the person by patting them on the head.

6. Give clear directions, including distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles that may hinder the person's travel.

7. Don't classify persons who use wheelchairs as sick. Wheelchairs are used for a variety of non-contagious disabilities.

8. When a person using a wheelchair "transfers" out of the wheelchair to a chair, toilet, car or bed, do not move the wheelchair out of reaching distance.
9. Be aware of the person's capabilities. Some users can walk with aid and use wheelchairs to save energy and move quickly.

10. It is ok to use terms like "running along" when speaking to a person who uses a wheelchair. The person is likely to express things the same way.

11. Don't discourage children from asking questions about the wheelchair.

12. Don't assume that using a wheelchair is in itself a tragedy. It is a means of freedom that allows the person to move about independently.

Created: April 02, 2009 @ 10:50 AM
Last Modified: April 28, 2014 @ 12:20 PM


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